Alaskan Radio:
 Theology, Mission and Pastoral Experience
Ross Tozzi

In partial fulfillment
of the requirement for the degree of
Master of Divinity

Submitted to the faculty of
Mount Angel Seminary
Spring 2000

Table of Contents


Beginnings: A Theological Foundation

The KNOM Mission: Inspire, Educate, Entertain
 Teaching on Social Communication and KNOM Programing
 Cross-Cultural Understanding
  A Native Structure of the World
  The Power of Words
  School vs. Education
  A Sacred Sense of Time
 Pastoral Experiences
  Alaska Voices Live
  An Untypical Afternoon
  A Long Memory


 A) Program Grid
 B) Contrasting Cultures
 C) Awards

Works Consulted

End Notes

Abbreviations Used

AN Aetatis Novae, A New Era
CP Communio et Progressio, Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication
EN Evangelii Nuntiandi, Evangelization in the Modern World
IM Inter Mirifica, Decree on the Means of Social Communication
PP Populorum Progressio, On the Development of Peoples
OA Octogesimo Adveniens, On the Eightieth Anniversary of Rerum Novarum


“Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine” (Is. 43:1b).  Two years before I ever set foot in Alaska, I heard the voice of the Lord calling me. It was a simple, quiet whisper to, “Join the JVC.” As a result of that call, I left a career in the Army to become a member of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and wound up as a disc jockey for KNOM, the Alaska Radio Mission in Nome, Alaska.

Sitting in a little studio, playing music to entertain people, reading the weather and pushing buttons to play pre-recorded messages, I found it hard to imagine how far my voice reached. When atmospheric conditions are favorable, listeners can tune into KNOM on Barter Island, 720 miles northeast of Nome, or on St. George Island, 560 miles to the south of Nome, a span of nearly 1300 miles. “That’s the distance between Toronto and Miami Beach” (Busch, “Alaskan-Sized” 4).

When communicating face to face it is often difficult to know whether or not you are getting your message across. As a disc jockey, rarely seeing the listeners face to face, I wondered if  I was having any impact. After all, what’s so pastoral about being a DJ?

“Bring back my sons from far away, my daughters from the end of the earth, all those who hear my name, whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, whom I have made” (Is. 43:6b-7). When my three years as a volunteer for KNOM came to an end in 1992, I left town  thinking I might never return to Nome. Each summer, hearing my name called, I have returned to volunteer my time and talents for KNOM.

In the fall of 1996 I entered Mount Angel Seminary to begin studies for a life of service as a priest in the Diocese of Fairbanks. During summer breaks from the seminary, I have been called back to Nome yet again and pondered the question anew. What’s so pastoral about being a DJ?

In search of an answer to that simple question, many others are raised. How did the radio station get started?  What does the church teach about evangelizing by radio? What is the mission of KNOM? How does KNOM measure up to church teaching on the means of social communication? What background and culture do many listeners come from? How are people touched by the ministry of the Alaska Radio Mission? It is such questions as these that I will address in the pages that follow.

Beginnings: A Theological Foundation

As a Jesuit pastor along the Yukon River in the late 1950's, Fr. James (Jim) Poole, S.J. saw modern society encroaching on the Alaskan bush. He wrote, “Gradually the Native people find themselves forced to adopt modern ways. This is a dramatic change for most, who have lived in a primitive hunting culture, a closed circle, and isolated for their entire lives. Many of these people find themselves lost in this new world” (qtd. in Renner 11).

To help Alaskan natives cope with the stresses of  “culture shock,” Fr. Poole dreamed of a radio station that would reach out to the many villages spread throughout Western Alaska. “Why not bring the good news of Christ, His peace, joy, hope, to the thousands of Eskimos and Indians living for the most part in relative isolation and cut off from the mainstream of twentieth century realities, and yet affected – often quite adversely – by outside influences?” (Renner 9,11) Fr. Poole’s vision was tied closely to Catholic social teaching on subsidiarity.

He envisioned radio as a means to reach out to the poor so that they themselves could help themselves. Bearing in mind the dignity of the human person, Fr. Poole believed the best approach “had to be down-to-earth, practical, focusing on temporal – economic, social, bodily – needs as much as on spiritual ones” (12). Fr. Poole wrote to his bishop and fellow Jesuit, Francis D. Gleeson, on April Fools day of 1959 to enlist his support. Bp. Gleeson approved of the project in principle but had no funds with which to assist Poole. If the dream of becoming “a missionary by microphone” was meant to be, Fr. Poole would have to raise the capital on his own and build a radio station from scratch (12).

Half a world away, Pope John XXIII was working on an inspired dream of his own, a church that would reach out to the modern world. In calling for a Second Vatican Council, the pope wished to address among other things the means of social communication. While the council failed to develop a theology of communication consistent with a new world outlook, it set in motion the means for addressing the issue.

The rector of the North American College in Rome along with five bishops, four from the United States and one from the United Kingdom, drafted the Vatican II Decree on the Means of Social Communication, Inter Mirifica. With minimal discussion, the decree was promulgated on the 4th of December, 1963. Inter Mirifica has been criticized as an “almost pre-Conciliar” document because it admonishes the faithful to use the media responsibly and fails to take “account of the insight into the nature of the Church and her relationship with the world which the Council later reached” (Kampe 195).

The conciliar decree argues from a stance of moral superiority based on the natural law and the common good. At times, it comes across as heavy handed for it sees that its “duty” is to deal with the “main problems posed by the means of social communication” (IM 2). Aware of  Inter Mirifica’s inadequacies, the council called for a pastoral instruction that would fulfill the need of the original decree (19, 32). In April of 1964,  Paul VI established a Pontifical Commission on Social Communications with the mission of working out the details of a theology of communication.

Used properly, the means of social communication can be a great tool to benefit human-kind. “But the Church also knows that man can use them in ways that are contrary to the Creator’s design and damaging to himself” (IM 2). Faced with this two edged sword, Catholic social teaching stresses the duty to communicate conscientiously in light of the dignity of the human person. The receiver also has a responsibility to be a critical consumer.

Back in Alaska, Fr. Poole still kept the dream of a radio station alive while attending to the many duties of a priest in a missionary diocese. “More than Father Jim realized, his bishop, too, was dreaming the radio dream; and to help make it a reality, he reassigned Father Jim – to Nome” in the summer of 1966 (Renner 16-17).  Situated on the southern end of the Seward Peninsula, “Nome is surrounded by over fifty isolated Eskimo and Indian villages . . . . and there are not enough priests, sisters and lay volunteers to serve the religious needs of the area” (Bunger and Busch).

Geographically it is an ideal location for a radio station. A radio station’s signal can easily broadcast to “listeners throughout Alaska's Seward Peninsula, around Norton Sound, the Yukon/Kuskokwim Delta, and deep into the Russian Far East” (Bunger and Busch). In 1966,  Nome was a city of 2,400 with a large Eskimo population, a shaky electrical system and a “honey bucket” sewer system (Renner 17).

Among the newest native inhabitants were the King Island (as in Christ the King) Eskimo community, recently displaced from their ancestral home. Due to the island’s precarious geography (a rocky slope of 50o), the government refused to build a new school on the island. The villagers abandoned their homes and way of life in the interest of  providing a better education for their children on the mainland.

While Fr. Poole tried to raise the capital and inspire others with his own enthusiasm for a radio station, the church in Rome continued to progress in its development of a theology of communication. In 1967 Pope Paul VI, deeply concerned for the plight of humans around the world, promulgated his encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, On the Development of Peoples, to influence all people of good will on the need to address the problems of the day. The encyclical calls for an international effort to end “hunger, misery, endemic disease, and ignorance” (1). Paul VI touches briefly on how the mass media can be used to help:

[Y]our job is to place before our eyes the initiatives that are being taken to promote mutual aid, and the tragic spectacle of misery and poverty that people tend to ignore in order to salve their consciences. Thus at least the wealthy will know that the poor stand outside their doors waiting to receive some left-overs from their banquets. (PP 83)
In order to make the radio dream a reality, Fr. Poole had to place before the eyes of others the need for an Alaska Radio Mission. With the bishop’s permission, Fr. Poole took off to the lower 48 for a few weeks in search of a key lay person with the technical know-how to build and operate a radio station. “In New York, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and Anchorage, he renewed contacts, made new ones, talked radio, attended a radio seminar . . . begged money . . . and left behind Eskimo dolls and ivory rosaries to be raffled off to raise cash for his station” (Renner 19). Day by day, dollar by dollar, volunteer by volunteer, the dream of a radio station crawled forward.

In January of 1971, the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications issued its long awaited pastoral instruction while the reality of a radio station in Nome still had not come about.  Communio et Progressio, a Pastoral Instruction on the Means of Social Communication, reflected the spirit of Vatican II and contributed significantly to a theology of communication centered around communion ecclesiology. The pastoral instruction places special emphasis on:

• The Trinity:  “In the Christian faith, the unity and brotherhood of man are the chief aims of all communication and these find their source and model in the central mystery of the eternal communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who live a single divine life” (CP 8).
• Christ: Reflecting an anthropology that Christ shows us what it means to be truly human, Christ is portrayed as  the model communicator.  “As the only mediator between the Father and mankind he . . . laid the foundations of unity among men themselves. . . . [C]ommunication among men found its highest ideal and supreme example in God who had become man and brother” (10).
• The Eucharist: “In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect, most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and out of this the deepest possible unity between men” (11).
With the aim of social communication clearly stated as the “unity and advancement” of  human society, the message conveyed in Communio et Progressio is of a Church truly seeking to address the modern world (1).

 The dignity of the human person is a core principle to guide the use of media.  Because humans themselves determine how the media will be used, “the moral principles at issue here are those based on a true interpretation of the dignity of man” (CP 14). Media can contribute to the dignity of the human person by eliminating illiteracy, furthering education and helping “people in developing countries achieve freedom and progress” (20). Social communication based on the dignity of the human person helps foster communion (102). In order to fulfill its mission of spreading the Gospel, the Church needs to engage the world in dialogue using the means of modern communication (Kampe 199).

Communio et Progressio offers specific advice for the professional communicator. Writers and artists are encouraged to open up the mystery of the human person by their artistic expression (CP 55-56). By shedding light on evil, they can “contribute to moral progress” (57). Above all, “communicators should be consumed by the desire to serve men” (72). Both “fidelity to truth and a passion for justice” should inspire them (78). “In their productions justice and integrity of judgment will impel artists to be concerned with the needs of minorities” as well as the majority (76). In order for the means of social communication to promote “justice, peace, freedom and human progress,” Communio et Progressio calls on the People of God to prayerfully support those who commit themselves to the means of social communication (CP 100). It also advises that the common good rather than the desire for profit alone must guide those who financially back the means of social communication (79).

After a dozen years of prayer, pleading and begging, Fr. Poole had called upon men and women of goodwill to provide the means of social communication for a radio station to be built and staffed in Nome, Alaska. KNOM radio station signed on the air on July 14th 1971. Among the voices heard on that first day of broadcast was Paul VI – not live but recorded on tape:

On this occasion we are happy to send our greetings to our dear sons and daughters in Alaska. Grace and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and we assure you all of our deep affection. By means of the radio we are happy to have the opportunity to send our special blessings into your homes. It goes to the young, to the old, to orphans, to the children, to the sick, to all those who love us in faith. (qtd. in Renner 50)
 In order to spread that love of Christ, Fr. Poole had a threefold plan which he articulated that same day. He wanted to:
1) Help people bridge the gap between the old and the new.
2) Help the young build the character necessary to face the problems of their lives.
3) Bring joy and happiness into the home by “plain old enjoyment.” (Renner 54)
The tiny mustard seed planted in the bishop’s mind on April Fools day a dozen years earlier was finally blossoming.
On the twentieth anniversary of Communio et Progressio, the Pontifical Commission for Social Communications issued a second pastoral instruction entitled Aetatis Novae, A New Era. At the dawn of a revolution in information technology, Aetatis Novae seeks to apply the same basic principles as Inter Mirifica and Communio et Progressio to “new and emerging realities” (AN 1).

The Church’s social communication is firmly rooted in a vision of building communion. As such, “communication mirrors the Church’s own communion and is capable of contributing to it.”  The “loving self-revelation of God, combined with humanity’s response of faith constitutes a profound dialogue” and serves as a model for the free speech and open dialogue that should exist among all people (6).

While reflecting the Eucharistic ecclesiology of Communio et Progressio, Aetatis Novae also reflects the cautionary tone of Inter Mirifica. Media has the potential for great harm by narrowly defining what people think and ponder. For many, reality is what they see or hear portrayed in the media. “Thus de facto silence can be imposed upon individuals and groups whom the media ignore” (AN 4). Mass media can also hinder the development of the human person through secularism, consumerism, materialism, dehumanization and failure to exercise a preferential option for the poor (13). With the aid of ethical and moral criteria rooted in the dignity of the human person, social communication needs to serve persons and cultures, advance free speech and religious freedom, lead to the progress of the human community, serve ecclesial communion and help build a new evangelization (7-12, 15).

Aetatis Novae ends on a challenging note. By and large, the Church has neglected its responsibility in the area of the mass media (AN 20). In view of this challenge, it is worth looking at KNOM in relationship to church teaching in the area of social communication.

The KNOM Mission: Inspire, Educate, Entertain

 Just as the Church’s understanding of its role in communications has grown and evolved over the years so has KNOM’s. The simple threefold mission of KNOM elaborated by Fr. Poole has matured over time. In 1978, Jesuit priest Paul Macke articulated the mission as follows:

Using an eclectic mix of music and a soft sell approach, KNOM invites the listener to willingly tune into the message it proclaims. With the dignity of the human person and a preferential option for the poor underlying its mission, effective and affective radio begins with relationship and carries through to all aspects of  programming.

Teaching on Social Communication KNOM Programming

Relationship: Through the media “the evangelical message should reach vast numbers of people, but with the capacity of piercing the conscience of each individual, of implanting itself in his heart as though he were the only person being addressed . . . and evoke an entirely personal adherence and commitment” (EN 45). The secret of  success as a DJ is to respect your audience and relate to each listener on a one on one basis.  “The KNOM approach to broadcasting is to become a friend to the listener on a personal, caring, positive level, within a consistent radio format” (Macke) Appendix A contains a table of a typical week’s programs.

Serve Humankind: “The more communicators remember that beyond the lifeless instruments which pass on their words . . . are countless living men and women, the more satisfaction they will get from their work and the better they will help others. The more they get to know their audience, the more they understand it and appreciate it, the more they will make what they communicate suit those who receive it. If they do this they help to make the process of communication a communion of the spirit” (CP 72).      “ Communicators breathe life into the dialogue that happens within the family of man . . . Their vocation is to promote the purpose of social communication . . . . to accelerate every sort of human progress and to increase cooperation among men until there exists a genuine communion among them” (CP 73).

In addition to local and national news, educational programming includes many issue oriented profiles and specials dealing with the hard problems and realities of life. Highlights from the 1998 Issues and Programs List include:

Spread the Gospel: “The modern media offer new ways of confronting people with the message of the Gospel, of allowing Christians even when they are far away to share in sacred rites. In this way they can bind the community closer together and invite everyone to partici-pate in the intimate life of the Church” (CP 128).

Inspirational programming includes the Sunday Mass, The Lord Be With You (bi-weekly instructions for native deacons to help them with homily preparation), the daily rosary, morning prayer, daily inspirational reflections, inspirational spots and ecumenical programs from other faiths such as On Track, Sing for Joy, Passages and Powerline.

Entertainment: “Simple entertainment, too, has a value of its own. It lightens the burden of daily problems and it occupies men’s leisure. The wide variety of production that the media offer for these hours of leisure, is in fact a remarkable service to mankind” (CP 52).  The glue that holds listeners to their radios day in and day out is music. Music varies from Top 40, country, oldies, classical, rock, to traditional Eskimo drumming. Yearly events such as the Polar Bear Swim, Bath Tub Race, Iditarod Sled Dog Race and the Savoonga Walrus Carnival round out the schedule.

Cross-Cultural Understanding

One way of concretely examining KNOM’s mission is through an actual sample of its programming. In February of 1998, Orthodox priest Michael Oleksa traveled to Nome to address the community on cross-cultural communication. Although he spoke in the local auditorium to only a few hundred people, his talk was broadcast throughout the region over KNOM. While on pastoral assignment in Nome, I listened to tapes of the KNOM broadcast and loosely transcribed 200 pages of handwritten notes.

While doing this, I extensively reorganized the notes and limited the scope of the original talk to focus on some theological, anthropological and sociological understandings central to the native culture. The presentation here is more that of a redactor than an author. Unless noted otherwise, ideas in this section should be considered the thoughts of Fr. Oleksa (whether or not specifically quoted) to the extent I have faithfully represented his ideas.

Married to a native Alaskan, Fr. Oleksa speaks from a unique position and helps provide a small glimpse into the gap between old and new. He has studied native cultures and traditional people from all over the world. His views are enriched by a quarter of a century of personal and ministerial  experience within Alaska. Observing the problems caused by well intentioned but misguided outsiders, he has worked hard to help others avoid the common misunderstandings that routinely and quite naturally arise. Like the radio station over which his message was carried, Fr. Oleksa is a bridge to help individuals from both “traditional native cultures and global literate cultures” understand each other (Oleksa). See Appendix B for a chart which contrasts the world view of traditional cultures to that of a global literate culture.

Introduction. Because of cultural differences, native Alaskans are often perceived as backward, stupid, ignorant, and dumb. A U.S. Government handbook on Alaska dated 1880, taught, “Except as their ideas are modified by relations and intercourse with white people, they [native Alaskans] have no religion, unless certain definite superstitions, having no connections with a definite idea of a supreme supernatural being, be called religion” (qtd. in Crimont 248). Alaska has a long and sad history of outsiders coming into the state with all kinds of mistaken notions about the native culture. While the language may be more politically correct today, misunderstanding and miscommunication is still widespread.

If you ask the dominant white culture if discrimination is a problem in Alaska, the answer you’ll most likely hear is, “No.” If you ask the same question of a person from a minority culture, the answer will be, “Absolutely, we experience discrimination everyday.”  Although bigotry exists, the problem between traditional native cultures and our modern society more often than not is one of miscommunication. When it happens in the classroom, the student pays the price. Children are labeled “learning disabled” and they wind up in special ed classes. In the clinic, it is the patient who pays. In the court room, it is the defendant who suffers. Whoever is in the lower power position pays the consequences for the unavoidable and sometimes undetected miscommunication.

Ministering to Alaskan natives requires one to try and understand the world in a different way. Although people eat the same, dress the same and listen to the same records, native cultures don’t see the world in the same way. Often times the differences are quite striking.

A Native Structure of the World. Where do human beings fit in the scheme of the universe? We live on the earth. It’s covered with the dome of the sky which opens to the spirit world beyond this one. Beneath us there is an underworld. This is the structure of the world. It has been there since the beginning time. It is not going to change. It is not a temporary thing but an eternal one.

  The homes tribal people live in also fit into the grander scheme of the universe. The names used for the parts of the home are the same names used for the parts of the universe. You can’t understand stories told in western Alaska unless you understand the connection between the house and the universe. For example, the portion above our heads, the roof is named just as the sky is. When you come out of the house through the front door, it is like being born from a womb. A pregnant mother always goes through a doorway slowly and headfirst. Why? The mother is teaching the baby in the womb by saying through gesture, “Now baby, when you want to come out this is how it is done. Please, head first and no stopping.” That is a pattern that is eternal. It’s a truth that doesn’t change.

On Kodiak Island, the early settlers noticed that when someone dies, the natives never took the body out though the front doorway. Instead, they took the body out through the smoke hole. This symbolized the passage that the dead were making from this world to the spirit world above. It meant taking the roof apart and lifting the body through the ceiling. It was a lot of trouble but if they did not do it this way, no one could live in the home and they would have to build an entirely new one. This tradition was quite perplexing to the early Siberians. They did not understand. You must be “educated” in a culture for the traditions and customs to make sense.

Anthropology. Contrary to our standard Western view, humans do not stand at the top of the pyramid in traditional local cultures. Everything is not ours to use as we please. The planet and all of space do not exist as a gigantic life support system for humans. Our modern culture acts out of this world view and it often has drastic consequences for nature, animals and even for fellow humans. From a native perspective, man is not superior to the animals.  An animal has the connotation of a living creature of superior sensitivity and intelligence. In European fairy tales, the frog is turned into a prince and lives happily ever after. In stories and legends from Kodiak, the human is turned into an animal and lives happily ever after.

The myths of traditional peoples are the sacred stories that tell them why things are the way they are. The stories of rural Alaskans are filled with animals who know things that humans don’t. They smell things we can’t smell. They hear things beyond the range of our hearing. They have the ability to see things that man cannot. They can swim and fly in ways that man cannot. Animals can all communicate with each other. They also observe humans. Humans have lost the ability to communicate with animals but animals have not lost their ability to understand humans.

Humans are only one element of a larger community. The humans, the land, the animals, the wind and the tide all have roles to fulfill in the community. Within the community, humans are the helpless and vulnerable ones. Humans need animals to offer themselves in order to keep them alive. A hunter does not kill an animal based on his superior hunting skills. When all humans live in right relationship with the world around them, then the animals will willingly sacrifice their own lives for the sake of the humans.

Where you fit in the cosmic scheme of things requires an understanding of where humans fit in relation to their environment. Human beings are but one of many species. Humans must act in harmony with nature and animals. The universe is in a delicate balance and any human person can upset that balance. For example, just one adolescent girl can cause ecological catastrophe by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. A world out of balance is a world dangerous not only to humans but to all life. Thus, every human must be careful of how they act and what they say lest they upset the balance of things.

The Power of Words. In a literate society the written word carries power.  Laws and regulations are written down and must be obeyed. We prefer our contracts written and notarized. What is said is not binding. Until the missionaries came to Alaska, the native cultures were completely oral. There were no written languages. Today most Alaskan natives know how to read and write but the society still has deep roots in oral culture. Here, a person is only as good as his word. Individuals must be extremely careful about what they say because the spoken word has such power.

School vs. Education. There is a big difference between school and education. From a global literate perspective if you don’t go to school, you are not educated. However, many people are educated without going to school. In a native culture, education is whatever you learn in life that is useful, meaningful and relevant to you. Information is passed from one generation to another through tradition and oral story telling. A healthy culture helps teach you who you are, how to relate respectfully to the world around you and to understand where you fit in  the cosmic scheme of things. Unschooled does not mean uneducated.

The elders teach by telling stories about the way things are. Stories provide structure. They help define who you are, where you fit in the universe and how to respectfully relate to the world around you. The meaning of many stories is tied to a specific piece of land for the land is a sacred inheritance. Just as the Israelites believe certain rivers and mountains are sacred because of the stories attached to them, so it is with every tribe. Tribal stories tell about the region and make the land sacred.

The wisdom of the old culture is that children must be taught. It doesn’t happen automatically. How to act, talk and live as a human being must be learned.  If the children do not learn, the family, the community, the society is in trouble. You become human by voluntarily conforming to the standards and behaviors of the traditional culture. This is education. You learn to do things the traditional way, the way they have always been done. “The way we do it” has to do with the way people see themselves in the world, in time, in space and in nature. This understanding is often difficult to articulate to others because traditional peoples often don’t speak English as their first language.

Traditions. A traditional education is focused backwards to the past. Traditions are passed from one generation to the next, from the past on up to the present. The first people, the peoples in the origin stories, were truly wise. They were there at the beginning. They experienced firsthand all that is now passed on. The first people could do things that we do cannot today. We have forgotten how. For example, the first people understood the animals. When the wolf cried, they understood what the crying was about. They heard and understood the birds. They could read the signs from the sky.

In the beginning, man was able to communicate with animals and this was very practical. The first people understood all that the animals told them. The first people had information at their disposal that we no longer have. From a traditional perspective, our ancestors knew more than we will ever know. The great library is not a room full of books. The great library is in the past and the repository of that knowledge are the elders.

In the beginning, the first people were connected. They had access to the spirit world below and that above. They understood the spirits, those friendly and hostile. This is not unique to Alaskan natives. It is the story of every culture. And just like the fall of man in Genesis,  the harmony that existed between humans, spirits and animals was somehow broken by human beings.
A Sacred Sense of Time. Traditional cultures experience time in a different way than the clock merely ticking away. It is the difference between kairos and chronos. Kairos is a type of time you enter when you are imitating the patterns of the past. Kairos can be defined as  meaningful or sacred time. Chronos is linear time.

In the southwest, many Navajos  still live in traditional hogans with dirt floors (some without running water and electricity). An outsider sees this and sees poverty. What they fail to see is a home that is in harmony with the past, with one’s ancestors going all the way back to the first people. The houses are meaningful. They all face in the same direction. The parts of the house and the parts of the universe all have the same name. The hogan, the traditional Navajo house, gives meaning because its inhabitants live in solidarity with all previous generations.

Many of our Jewish and Christian religious traditions also operate in sacred time rather than mere chronological time. The Jewish tradition of Passover connects you with all people around the world who carry on the tradition and with all past generations. Everyone celebrates the meal as if they themselves had been brought out of Egypt. In the Christian tradition, there is the Last Supper. At the moment you eat and you drink, you might as well have been at the original Last Supper because the reality of that long ago and far away sacred event is present here and now. It’s kairos because we do it the same way. We say the same words. We eat the same food. It doesn’t change. We are connected and the action itself becomes meaningful.

Traditional local cultures try to live as much as possible in kairos, in sacred and meaningful time. The goal of life is to take the chronos, clock time, and fill it with meaning for anything done in sacred time has eternal value. Doing things the traditional way puts you in solidarity with all other human beings who are also living according to these models, paradigms and structures. Knowing the structures of the universe gives you the tools, if you are intelligent, to survive and be human. You are also in harmony and solidarity with all your ancestors back to  the first people. When you do things the traditional way, you are becoming human because that is the way humans do it and always have. As you live in kairos, what you do becomes eternal and valuable.

Life is filled with many meaningful gestures such as the way you get up in the morning, the way you go to bed at night, the way you come in and out of the house, the way you butcher an animal or skin it, the way you cook it, the way you make tools, the way you store them. Dozens of do’s and don’ts mold your behavior. Observing these traditions makes you human and gives meaning to your life. The daily struggle of life, the simple daily routine is filled with meaning because there is a genuine human way of doing it. Living the traditional way allows you to turn chronos  into kairos.

Conclusion. “Our first task in approaching another people , another culture, another religion, is to take off our shoes, for the place we approach is holy. Else we may find ourselves treading on peoples dreams. More seriously, we may forget that God was there before our arrival” (Huber 8). When people are racially or culturally different, we have a tendency to shy away from them. It takes a deliberate act of the  will to go up to a person from another culture and listen to their story. Once people begin to share their stories with each other, they find real similarities. The sacred sense of time, the value of telling stories and relying on the wisdom of tradition are vital parts of not only an Alaskan native culture but of our Judeo-Christian tradition as well.

Pastoral Experiences

 Both oral and written narratives are powerful means of social communication. Christ, the ultimate communicator, taught in parables and used stories to show humanity what it means to be truly human. He revealed the Father and the Spirit. The relational nature of the Trinity serves as a model for how humans are to live and communicate with one another. People are not to live as selfish individuals looking out for only their own interests. With the means of social communication, they too can extend the Word of God to build up the Body of Christ and transform the world.

 In the following pages, I will recount a few stories stemming from my summer experiences. Although clearly delineated into four segments, the intent is not four separate and unrelated stories. As Fr. Oleksa pointed out in his talk, sometimes it is not one story but a series of stories that are used to drive home a point. Individually, the stories may not seem to be making any particular point. But collectively, the weaving of the stories together shows how KNOM is in communion, fellowship and solidarity with the listeners it tries to serve.

 Hotlines. Twice a day, KNOM airs a hotline program in order to pass messages along from one listener to another. Hotlines are a way to send everything from a  simple greeting to messages of life and death. The practice  started  back in 1971 when the station first signed on the air. Back then most people in the villages had no phones and little opportunity to communicate back and forth. Although many have phones today, the subsistence lifestyle of rural Alaska and the remote conditions sometimes make hotlines the most effective and direct means of communication.

Each summer the King Islanders set up camp along the coast at Cape Wooley and return to a traditional subsistence life style. On a clear day, they can see King Island from Cape Wooley and when weather conditions are good enough, some even return to their garden of Eden in the Bering Sea. Cape Wooley like most native fish camps lacks the modern conveniences of electricity, phones or plumbing. Listening to the radio is the only way to stay in touch.

One afternoon I received a phone call from Palmer, Alaska (546 miles SE of Nome). The family asked me to break news of a death that had just occurred 90 minutes earlier. Reading the message exactly as dictated, I broadcast:

 To: Our relatives and friends at Cape Wooley and King Island and to the  Pushrooks in Teller
 From: The Pushrooks in Palmer
  Sad to say that Jackie Anthony Pushrook passed away at 2:10 this afternoon at his residence in Palmer. Funeral arrangements are pending. Any questions – please contact the family.
Imagine your own reaction if you turned on the radio and learned that a dear family member had passed away. You might be very upset at the messenger who used such a public forum. This is not the case in rural Alaska. To share such a tragic and intimate event over the radio bespeaks as much of the trusted relationship between listener and communicator as it does of the remoteness and isolation of the listener.

Most hotlines are not so serious. Many messages are of joy and peace. Although greeting cards are available in big cities like Nome (population under 4,000 but still about the tenth largest city in the state), the KNOM hotline program is the first thought that comes to mind when family members wish to pass along  special greetings. For example:

 To: Uncle Frank and Grandpa John at King Island and Uncle Charles in    Serpentine.
 From: Nivi in Greenland
 Anana, Eric and I love and miss you. We hope you are doing well. Hugs and kisses from Greenland.

 To: Tim and Anna Gologergen
 From: All your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren
Today is your special day. Happy 49th wedding anniversary. We all love you both so very much. God bless you both on your special day.

Hotlines create a spirit of unity across vast distances, a small town atmosphere, a bond of communion and community from one village to another. Hotlines are not the only means by which KNOM helps to connect people from one end of the state to another.

Alaska Voices Live.  Alaska Voices Live provides another opportunity for connecting people. Each week a network of radio stations throughout the state broadcasts a call-in show titled Alaska Voices Live. A different station hosts the program each week and from time to time KNOM has its opportunity to originate the program from Nome. It is an opportunity to relate to every listener in a very personal and profound way rather than a chance to showcase the dysfunctionality of society as one so often sees on television these days.

Station manager Tom Busch was the host one morning for an hour long discussion on teen pregnancy. The guests included three adult experts and Annie, a teenage mother who was so nervous and hesitant about being on the program that she preferred to remain anonymous on the air.

To educate others, Annie agreed to come on the radio and tell of her struggles. Speaking with a wisdom beyond her years, Annie told her story and the swirl of turmoil and emotions that resulted from her pregnancy. The show really struck a chord with listeners because of Annie's honesty in talking about the struggles of being a teen mother. She had had sex education in school during the eighth grade but the education never touched on the emotional issues, the financial difficulties and the loss of innocence at becoming a mother at such a young age. Instead, it focused on the mechanics of how a baby is conceived and the life and death issues involved in sexually transmitted diseases. Scare tactics were ineffective to encourage abstinence.

When Annie became pregnant at fifteen, her mother was so upset that she stopped talking to her until the sixth month of her pregnancy. When Annie's daughter was born, Annie lived on her own for a while trying to go to school, earn money to survive, take care of her apartment and cope with raising an infant alone. At one point the father moved in with her for a short period but soon left her on her own again. Embarrassed at having to admit defeat, Annie finally moved back home under her mother’s roof. Tensions rose again when her boyfriend came to live with her. Once again the boyfriend moved out. Becoming a mother at fifteen meant losing the carefree years of her youth. Something as basic as watching a movie on the VCR is not as simple as sitting down to relax for a little while because her daughter interrupts and needs attention frequently.

Behind the scenes and off the air, I screened calls from listeners in Dillingham, Aniak, Chevak, Nome and elsewhere from around the state. While a few were willing to go on air, others showed a hesitancy to talk on the air. Among those who spoke to me but did not want to go on the air were:

In a way that did not moralize or preach to the audience, Annie showed how human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person calls for the gift of sexuality to be expressed in marriage. When the show ended, I  spoke to Annie for but a moment to pass along the praise from the woman who wanted a tape of the show. I don’t quite recall what I said, but I do recall Annie’s reaction. Her face lit up with a smile and she responded, “You've made my day!” Telling her story, telling her struggles to a radio audience she could not see had been difficult and emotionally draining. Those few words of praise vindicated Annie’s belief that she was right to come forward and tell her story so others could learn from her struggles in life.

An Untypical Afternoon. Around 4:00 PM one afternoon, former KNOM volunteer Cristie Normile Fagerstrom dropped by the studio. In 1993-94 she volunteered at the radio station and then stayed on in town, eventually marrying her sweetheart. Christie now works to coordinate the Nome Youth Court. Because juvenile crime is a low priority in the criminal justice system, the youth court involves teens in the process of  prosecuting, defending, judging and punishing their peers.  And that jury of peers tends to be much stricter in calling youth on the carpet for their misdeeds. Instead of getting a slap on the wrist, convicted teens often must pay for the damage they did, offer public apologies and  serve time in various community service projects.

Earlier in the spring, Christie had asked KNOM to help publicize the efforts of the Youth Court and encourage financial support from the community. As a result of the overwhelming community response, Christie and a group of fourteen youth were able to attend a statewide workshop in Anchorage. The Nomeites outnumbered the much larger community of Anchorage at the workshop.

This time, Christie stopped by the radio station with a certificate of appreciation for KNOM. Seeing an opportunity to help them once again, station manager Tom Busch decided to let Christie’s assistants, two teens involved in the program, present the award on air. In the process, they had the opportunity to explain once again the mission of Nome’s Youth Court. Afterwards, someone grabbed a camera to take a picture of Christie and the teens presenting the award to Tom.

Meanwhile, an alert listener called in asking if KNOM had any further information on the crash of a plane that they had overheard on the scanner. Within five minutes, everyone in the radio station was involved in tracking down the news story and lending a helping hand wherever it was needed.

News Director Paul Korchin grabbed for his parka and for the phone.  He called engineer Les Brown back into the station and the two of them headed out toward Dexter where they thought the plane might have crashed. Morning DJ Connie Fessel stepped in to prepare for the evening newscast that Paul would have ordinarily delivered. Program manager Ric Schmidt manned the main control board in studio A. I pulled up a chair in the news room and began to write down whatever information came in. Although I played a very small and almost insignificant role, station manager Tom Busch was most appreciative as this freed him to call some hard news sources. The information I picked up off the scanner was not useable for basing a news story on but it did provide leads as to how to approach the story.

Tom called the Associated Press in Anchorage and alerted them to the story as well as obtaining the phone number for the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA was not able to confirm anything officially. Tom next tried Baker Aviation. According to the scanner, the suspected plane crash was a Baker Aviation flight from Kotzebue with ten people aboard. The call to Baker confirmed that a Cessna-Caravan was due into town at 3:45 PM, that it was overdue and that the plane had a pilot and nine passengers.

These hard  facts gave  KNOM solid and useable information  to broadcast a special news bulletin.

As I listened in on the scanner several things were readily apparent. First, there was a lot of confusion. The emergency locator beacon  was broadcasting conflicting information.  The suspected sight of the plane was towards Basin Creek. However, aside from the fact that the plane was overdue,  emergency teams were not even sure if the plane had landed or crashed. Secondly, if the plane was down, conditions were life threatening. Rain and fog reduced visibility to about one-and-a-quarter miles. Temperatures were cold enough to make hypothermia a real threat for any passengers that dressed lightly. Worse yet, the crash of the plane could mean serious injuries and as of yet no one knew where the plane was.  With ten lives at stake, there was a real sense of community as everyone within the vicinity of Nome who could offer a helping hand dropped what they were doing to pitch in and help. The Volunteer Fire Center acted as the area command and control center. The hospital was on standby offering any assistance they could. People radioed in with offers of snowmobiles and  warm clothing for emergency responders in the Banner Creek area. One father radioed in a concern that there was no one to pick up his daughter from school. He was put at ease immediately as someone had already seen to the safety of his child.

Further confusion was added by everybody trying to talk at the same time over the emergency radio channels. At 5:05 PM the medical team was ordered to hold radio traffic for five minutes in order to allow Search and Rescue uninterrupted use of the radio net.  Paul and Les, in the vicinity of the suspected crash sight, saw all emergency vehicles heading in the opposite direction. The newest triangulation had put the site of the crash east of the Nome River up by Army Peak.

With mixed emotions as to whether or not I was abandoning my post, I advised Tom that I was headed over to St. Joseph’s for the 5:15 PM  Mass. In the interim, Tom headed over to the fire station and his wife Florence, the business manager, stepped in at the station to provide a helping hand. Meanwhile at St. Joseph Parish, Fr. John Hinsvark, Fr. Andrzej Maslanka and the Little Sisters of Jesus were well aware of the problem due to the radio broadcasts. From the comfort of God’s sanctuary, we prayed for the safety of the passengers. After Mass, I stayed on to pray the Rosary. I returned to the radio station about 6:10 PM to find that God had indeed been listening to the prayers of all those involved. Newton Peak, just east of Nome, was the site of the miracle.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board account of the crash:

On May 14, 1998, about 1525 Alaska daylight time, a Cessna 208 airplane, N192AV, sustained substantial damage during an in-flight collision with terrain, about 5 ½ miles northeast of Nome, Alaska. . . . The airplane was operated by Baker Aviation, Kotzebue, Alaska, as Flight 435. The certificated airline transport pilot and five passengers received minor injuries. One passenger received serious injuries and three passengers were not injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed in the area of the accident. . . .The flight originated at the Ralph Wein Memorial Airport, Kotzebue, Alaska, about 1402.

The airplane struck slightly rising snow covered terrain. The first observed portion of airplane wreckage noted along the wreckage path, was a belly mounted cargo pod door. Additional portions of the airplane were located along the wreckage path that extended for about 362 feet. Wreckage items found along the path included portions of the cargo pod, several engine components including the engine mount, front windshield, engine cowling with a portion of distorted external exhaust stack, the nose gear and the entire separated engine/propeller assembly. The main fuselage was lying inverted at the end of the wreckage path.

Details pieced together from a series of Paul Korchin’s news reports explain what happened in less technical terms:
The plane was reported overdue at 3:45 this afternoon on what is normally an hour-and-a-half flight from Kotzebue. An emergency locator transmitter was triggered but there were at least two false reports of the crash site before rescuers found the plane on Newton Peak.  Visibility at road level, about two miles from the crash site, was down to about a mile and a half but rescuers returning from the mountain top reported whiteout conditions.

One member of the snowmobile rescue team described the survival of all ten on board as miraculous. He said it appeared that the Caravan sheared off its landing gear and belly luggage compartment on impact, then flopped over, leaving the engine behind as it slid along the snow. Though the windshield was broken the cockpit did not fill with snow.

All ten people survived the crash. Most of the survivors rode down the mountain as passengers on snowmobiles. At least three came down on sleds. At the rescue coordination center on Beam Road, most of the survivors were able to walk to passenger vehicles. All were taken to Norton Sound Regional  Hospital. One elder woman was later medivaced to Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Paul and Les returned to the radio station and Paul immediately turned around and headed for city hall to cover the weekly Nome City Council meeting.  Ric headed home to pack and get ready for an evening flight to Cleveland. Former KNOM news director Tom Bunger arrived to take the helm at the board and do the Rock Show.  I went over to the volunteer house thinking I’d have a quiet evening catching the series finale of  Seinfeld and the season finale of ER.

Before the end of  ER, Sr. Marilyn Marx, a Holy Names sister and Chancellor of the Diocese of Fairbanks, returned from her village trip to Shishmaref. I turned the set off and kept her company while she ate dinner. Sr. Marilyn had visited the tannery in Shishmaref on behalf of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and was duly impressed by the work being done there.  In addition, she also got to visit with Karlin Itchoak, (a former KNOM Request show DJ and the son of Noralee Itchoak, Fr. Jim Poole’s first volunteer in 1966).

When Marilyn headed upstairs to retire for the evening, I decided to return to the station. One of the passengers on the ill-fated Baker flight was there. Bill Murray, the news director for KOTZ radio in Kotzebue, was released from the hospital and came over to the radio station to make phone calls to family and friends, telling them he was alive and well despite a few minor injuries.

Paul was busy in the news room writing up five different news stories based on all that had happened during the day. I offered Paul a helping hand until I saw the lights on the phone go dark and then sat with Bill figuring that a sympathetic ear might be helpful to someone who had just survived such a harrowing experience. Bill was remarkably calm. Once he was able to get through to Alaska Airlines and book a flight the following morning, Bill, Paul and I  headed over to the volunteer house. Although it was midnight, Bill shared some of the details that did not make the news. After the crash, the Baker pilot did everything he could to see to the care and comfort of  his passengers. Unfortunately, most people had dressed lightly and were ill prepared for the weather. Flying frequently with the Baker pilot to the villages in the Kotzebue area, Bill felt quite sorry for the black mark on the pilot’s record that the crash would surely bring.

During the two and a half hours between crash and rescue, the ten on Newton Peak listened to KNOM  radio wishing that they had some way to communicate. Two people brought cellular phones along with them but since  Nome does not have cellular repeater stations, the phones were useless.  Bill was upset because he felt he was blowing his one and only chance for a Pulitzer Prize. As to their location, due to G.P.S. (global positioning system) equipment on board, the passengers knew the exact location they had gone down. The ability to communicate by radio however had been lost in the crash. Bill’s blue jeans were blood stained as was a towel he had used as a makeshift bandage. Out of consideration for those sleeping, Bill opted not to run the washing machine. After a meal and the chance to unwind with a little conversation,  Bill took a shower and plopped down for a few hours of sleep. Before his flight the next morning, Bill wanted to get over to the radio station and make a few more phone calls to KOTZ and the Associated Press.

The following morning, as I was heading over to the station, Les asked if  I would like to see Bill off to the airport. I hopped in the back seat with Bill’s luggage and at the airport, hopped out to carry Bill’s luggage inside for him. With that I said farewell.  Bill shook my hand and said, “Thank you for all you’ve done.”  No doubt Bill was quite appreciative for all that the town of Nome had done in the search,  rescue and medical care of all ten survivors. However, his final words of thanks struck me as more personal. What little I had done for him had made him feel at home at KNOM. Bill then stepped up to the counter to proceed with the next step of his journey – a flight to Anchorage – and then onto Hawaii for his two weeks of annual training with the Army Reserves.

A Long Memory. Imagine a cold, dark, rocky island, no hotels, no restaurants, no roads. The island is closer to the Soviet Union  (50 miles) than it is to mainland Alaska (175 mile). With the surrounding ocean long since frozen, small bush planes are the only way in or out. Imagine you are an outsider. You’ve made no advance plans, no phone calls ahead to secure help, shelter or food. You don’t have enough money to buy a plane ticket home. But imagine that thanks to the magic of KNOM, although everyone appears a stranger, everyone knows you and you are welcomed. Imagine my trip to Gambell, on Alaska’s Saint Lawrence Island.

What a delight when a snowmobile glided up to the airstrip and a villager offered to take me anywhere I wanted to go.  After speeding across the frozen lake at a frightening 65 MPH, we pulled up to the John Apangaluk (ah-PANG-gah-look) High School where I sought shelter. Once my safety and entry into the school was assured, the villager merely asked for a shake of the hand as payment for his help.  As I extended my hand, I was suddenly embarrassed. He had pulled off his gloves in sub-zero weather and I was still wearing my three layers of gloves.

The school was also featuring Career Day so there were six other visitors. After dinner, a few radio interviews and a video seen on the school's VCR, we were all thankful for the warmth of the school building as we unrolled our sleeping bags for a night’s rest on the floor of the home economics classroom. The next morning I sat in with the children, all twenty-five of them ranging from 7th through 12th  grades, as they went round robin in groups of five to hear each of the outsiders explain career opportunities that awaited them in college, the National Guard and the Job Corps.

What impressed me about the children was how quiet, gentle and soft spoken they were. In the afternoon, students and parents and concerned villagers gathered for the start of the school board meeting. The school district encompasses eleven widely scattered and isolated villages and each month, the school board travels to a different village to see first hand the needs of the local children.

As an introduction to the official business, kindergarten children led the Pledge of Allegiance – in both English and Siberian Yupik, which is the native tongue of the villagers. Then, high school girls, in colorful print kuspuks (native Eskimo pullover dresses), danced, while the boys beat walrus skin drums and sang traditional songs in Yupik. Lest you think the kids had all the fun, a 90 year old elder helped the boys in their singing and drumming.  It was touching to see the respected elder helping the children keep their culture alive and vital.

Villagers, students and elders addressed the board in a spirit of democracy that would have made George Washington proud.  Their needs are basic:

The present elementary school is overcrowded and dangerously sandwiched between fuel storage tanks and a propane storage building.
 The high school is a mile away. Elementary children ride in open sleds during the bitterly cold winters to reach the high school gym. The parents fear frostbite.
Parents asked for better heat for the school. At present, students are distracted by cold classrooms.
And they requested running water be installed in the high school kitchen.
At dinner time I sat alone at a table in the gym until a friendly native gentleman sat next to  me. He told me that he was a longtime listener of KNOM and he recounted how KNOM had helped educate his native people about mental health problems. After dinner the school board played a local team in a pick-up game of basketball.

Over a hundred villagers packed the gymnasium to cheer the locals.  The children, who had been so shy and quiet during the school day, enjoyed the game with loud, boisterous enthusiasm. I enjoyed the game too, not so much for the action on the court, as the opportunity to play with the two-year old son of the generous man who had picked me up at the airstrip. Although this little boy spoke no English, we had no trouble communicating.  Warm smiles on both sides were the only language we needed.

The next morning all of the school board officials got onto bush flights headed for the mainland. I suited up in several layers of warm clothing and set out in the 10 AM darkness for a walking tour of the village.  Although I saw a few villagers zipping around on all?terrain?vehicles or snowmobiles, nobody  was as foolhardy as I to walk around in the 60o-below-zero windchill.  At the time, I didn’t know the windchill figure. I learned it later and then understood why the wind had so viciously cut through all my layers of clothing.

For the villagers, it was  just a normal winter day on Saint Lawrence Island.
It was light at noontime, about as much light filtering through the fog as you’d find in the Lower 48 at sunset. As I boarded the twin-engine Piper Navajo for the flight home (on a complimentary ticket), I remembered to pull off all three layers of gloves off as I shook hands with the villager who had first welcomed me to his rugged and isolated hometown. He sincerely appreciated the gesture of thanks with the bare hand.

My trip to Gambell was in February of 1990 – three months before I stopped working as a full time DJ. The trip made a  memorable impression on me on a number of different levels. Little did I understand the impression I made on others until the summer of 1997 when Clara stopped by the radio station.  Not having heard my voice on the air with any regularity for years and not having seen my face for over seven, Clara stopped by the radio station to say hello. She greeted me with a warm hug (three in fact) and one question: “Are you going to come back to Gambell?”

Clara’s memory was a fair bit sharper than mine. I could not place her face if my life depended on it. What I did recall were the wise words of an Ursuline Sister, Cecilia Huber, who lived among the volunteer community seven years earlier. Commenting on the fact that a DJ rarely sees his audience face to face, she reminded all the volunteers of the impact of their work for KNOM, “You'll never know how far your voice reaches out to people – but rest assured it reaches farther than you can ever imagine.”


In 1971, Paul VI noted that thanks to the media “news from the entire world reaches us practically in an instant, establishing contacts which supercede distances and creating elements of unity among all men. A greater spread of education and culture is becoming possible” (OA 20). Thanks to the vision of Fr. Jim Poole, S.J., the Alaska Radio Mission that was once only a dream began in that same year of 1971 to supercede the distances and create the opportunity for greater unity among all Alaskans.

Like the tiny mustard seed that grew to provide a safe haven for the many birds of the air, KNOM has grown tremendously beyond what anyone could have ever imagined. Rooted in  service to the people of God in Western Alaska, KNOM has drawn national recognition for the quality of its entertainment, public service, sports coverage and journalism. KNOM has received the prestigious Gabriel Award for Radio Station of the Year seven times. (See Appendix C for a list of awards.)

Embarrassed over the frequency with which it was winning, the station considered not applying for the award. The awarding officials countered that KNOM should continue to apply and noted how KNOM has literally raised the standard by which others are judged for their public service.

KNOM has also garnered attention from the Vatican.  “In Rome, Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications cited KNOM, according to Bishop Michael Kaniecki, S.J., ‘as an example to the other bishops of what can be accomplished’” (Busch, “Year” 4).

The Alaska Radio Mission is intimately tied to the community it serves. Through its mission of inspiring, educating and entertaining it mirrors the theology of communication outlined by the Church in various encyclicals and pastoral instructions.

Through its mission and ministry, KNOM strives to uplift the individual and lay a foundation for improving society. Founded on a preferential option for the poor, each of the radio staff has been trained in the rudiments of radio within the structure of a radio family. Living and working in community, this family teaches love of God and love of neighbor so they can relate to each listener one on one. Recognizing our interrelatedness, our communion, we are each called to share our wealth of information and resources and work towards social justice for all.

As long as KNOM stays faithful to its roots in the gospel and in the service of others, it will be an agent for transforming the world into a true communion of brothers and sisters in union with the Trinity.

Appendix A: KNOM Program Grid

Time Monday-Friday Saturday Sunday
5:55 A.M. KNOM Update News KNOM Update News KNOM Update News
6:00 6:06 APRN Statewide News; 6:35 Morning Prayer 6:30 Morning Prayer Newsweek On Air
6:55 KNOM Expanded Update News
7:00 7:06 APRN Statewide News and Econ Report;7:15 Marine Weather; 7:30 National, state, local news headlines; 7:55 KNOM Update News  Sing For Joy; 7:30 Powerline
8:00 8:06 APRN Statewide News; 8:10 Marine Weather; 8:30 News headlines; 8:55 KNOM Expanded Update News 8:30 Fish Report 8:10 Passages; 8:30 Fish Report
9:00 9:10 KNOM Profiles; 9:20 Marine Weather; 9:30 Morning Prayer 9:30 Morning Prayer Arctic Science Journeys; 9:15 Contact

10:00 APRN's "Talk of Alaska" (Tue.);"Alaskan Voices Live" (Wed.); Tom Busch show (other days).  10:30 Sunday Mass
11:00 Tom Busch show; 11:55 KNOM Expanded Update News
12:00 P.M. 12:06 APRN Midday News; 12:10 Local Weather; 12:15 KNOM Village Hotlines; 12:20 Fisheries Report; 12:30 Eskimo Stories  12:15 Village Hotlines; 12:20 Fish Report; 12:30 Request Show 12:15 Village Hotlines; 12:20 Fish Report
1:00 1:30 National Native News; 1:35 Inspirational Talk (Tues, Thurs, Fri) "The Lord Be With You" (Monday/Wednesday) Request Show (cont.)
2:00 "Newsweek On Air" (Thursday); The Tom Bunger Show (Friday) Request Show (cont.) 2:10 Specials
3:00  Request Show (cont.) 3:10 On Track
4:00 P.M. 4:55 KNOM Expanded Update News Request Show (cont.) 4:10 Country Crossroads
5:00 5:15 KNOM Village Hotlines; 5:20 Fisheries report; 5:30 Alaska News Nightly 5:15 Village Hotlines; 5:20 Fish Report; 5:25 Insp. Talk; 5:30 Ear Play 5:05 Contact; 5:15 Village Hotlines; 5:20 Fish Report; 5:30 Ear Play
6:00 6:06 KNOM Profiles; 6:20 Paulist Magazine(Tuesday);Portfolio (Wed) Special Assignment (Thurs);World Of Religion (Fri) Casey's Top 40 Casey's Top 40
7:00 The Dave Collins Show (Monday);John Albers Show (Wednesday) Casey's Top 40 (cont.) Casey's Top 40 (cont.)
8:00  Casey's Top 40 (cont.);8:30 Fish Report Casey's Top 40 (cont.); 8:30 Fish Report
9:00 9:30 Inspirational Talk; 9:40 the Family Rosary; KNOM Expanded Update News Casey's Top 40 (cont.) Casey's Top 40 (cont.)
10:00 10:10 KNOM Profiles; 10:15 Marine Weather 10:10 Powerline; 10:45 Rosary 10:10 On Track; 10:45 Rosary
11:00 Newsweek On Air (Monday); Contact (Tues);Eskimo Stories (Wed); Country Crossroads (Thurs); Eskimo Stories (Fri) KNOM Music Magazine Specials
12:00 to 5:55 A.M. Overnight programming (Music, spots, hourly news and weather) Overnight programming Overnight programming

Source: Bunger and Busch, “Program Grid.”

Appendix B: Fr. Oleksa’s Contrast of Cultures

 When outsiders come to Alaska, a lot of miscommunication occurs. The best analogy to describe the miscommunication is the disorientation of a person who arrives in the middle of a play. The characters on stage understand each other. Everyone else in the audience has seen the play from the beginning and is oriented to the story. The person who comes in late does not understand the story nor the reasons why people are acting the way they are. There are natives who are very inculturated into the global literate society. There are those from non-traditional societies who nevertheless have a strong identification with traditional local cultures. With the caveat that being native is not synonymous with having a “traditional” outlook on life, it is helpful to study and compare the differences between cultures:
Traditional Local Cultures
  • See the world as whole and interconnected.
  • Everyone is required to know everything, be schooled in the general education and know all the parts. Transgressing any part of it can spell disaster. Nothing is specialized. 
  • Kairos: Time is sacred and meaningful when people do things that put them in harmony with their ancestors and each other. People become genuine humans by doing things in the traditional way. 
  • People must be of service to the whole community to be human beings. 
  • Focuses on the spoken word.
  • Focuses on what happened at the beginning of time.
  • Encourages people to share what you have with others.
  • Localized and small with almost no meaningful political, economic and social power. Suffers when there is miscommunication. 
Global Literate Culture
  • Sees reality as fragmented/chopped into pieces.
  • Students have to be specialized. Education is for a marketable skill.
  • Chronos: Time is only chronological.

  • Stresses individuality.
  • Focuses on reading and writing.
  • Focuses on the future. Believes in planning ahead. 
  • Encourages personal saving.
  •  Upper power bracket.  Has all the political, social and economic power on the planet. Better able to utilize the system and minimize suffering.


Appendix C: KNOM Awards

Alaska Broadcasters Association “Goldie Awards”

Alaska Press Club

National Association of Broadcasters




Source: Bunger and Busch, “Awards.”

 Works Consulted

Bunger, Thomas and Thomas A. Busch. “The Alaska Radio Mission.” Internet posting at accessed 30 Sep. 1999.

— . “Awards.” Internet posting at accessed 30 Sep. 1999.

— . “Program Grid.” Internet posting at accessed 30 Sep. 1999.

Busch, Thomas A. “Issues/Programs List: KNOM AM/FM, 31 December 1998.” Nome, AK: KNOM, 1999.

— . “Alaskan-Sized Listening Area.” Nome Static. 406 (Jan. 2000): 4.

— . “Year in Review: 1998." Nome Static. 392 (Dec. 1998): 3-4.

Crimont, Joseph R. "Alaska." The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton, 1907.

Huber, Cecilia. "Alaskan Exposure: A Spiritual Experience." St. Anthony Messenger. Mar. 1994: 8-15.

Kampe, Walther. “Communicating With the World: The Decree Inter Mirifica.” Vatican II Revisited By Those Who Were There. Ed. Alberic Stacpoole. Minneapolis, MN: Winston, 1986. 195-201.

Korchin, Paul. “Baker Aviation Plane Crash.” KNOM Update News. Nome, AK: KNOM, 14-15 May 1998.

Langdon, Steve J. The Native People of Alaska. Rev. 3rd ed. Anchorage, AK: Greatland Graphics, 1993.

Macke, Paul. “Mission Statement.” Nome, AK: KNOM, 1978.

National Transportation Safety Board. “NTSB Accident # ANC98FA046." Aviation Accident Database for May 1998. Internet posting at
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End Notes

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